AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage’s pick for the Dirigo Health board of trustees withdrew his nomination Tuesday while blasting three Democratic groups for attacking him during his confirmation hearing last week.

Jonathan McKane, a former state representative from Newcastle, made his remarks to the Legislature’s Insurance Committee one week after it rejected his nomination to the Dirigo board on an 8-5 vote.

During last week’s hearing, Democratic-aligned groups lined up to testify against McKane, a vociferous critic of the Dirigo Health program, for comments he had made on the conservative website As Maine Goes and other online forums.

Some claimed that McKane was sexist for referring to female proponents of Dirigo as “Dirigirls,” and that his contempt for the program made him unfit to serve on its board of trustees.

McKane was not given a chance to respond, in violation of the Legislature’s joint rules for confirmations. He returned to the Insurance Committee on Tuesday to rebut his critics.

McKane described last week’s hearing as a “coordinated attack” by the Maine Education Association, the Maine People’s Alliance and Consumers for Affordable Healthcare.

McKane acknowledged that he had little chance of getting confirmed, but said, “I felt it was important to stand up to the ridiculous, baseless insults that were part of that coordinated attack from the left.”

McKane indicated that the hearing was retribution against him for going “toe-to-toe” with progressive groups and ideology. He said other Republicans had been taken down by those groups. “I feel honored to be in the same company as those fine folks who were attacked so mercilessly,” he said. “They did not get a chance to rebut that false testimony as I am today.”

As for his online comments, McKane reiterated what he said last week, that his remarks were often “tongue in cheek” and designed to provoke some regular posters on As Maine Goes.

McKane said he took offense to suggestions that he would not be able to work with members of the Dirigo board because he had been publicly critical of previous board members and the program. McKane concluded by withdrawing his nomination.

All seven Democrats on the Insurance Committee opposed his nomination last week. Sen. Dick Woodbury, a Yarmouth independent, also voted against him.

The Democratic-led Senate confirmed two other Republican nominees to the board, Gary Reed and Wesley Richardson.

LePage last week indicated that the board slot slated for McKane would remain vacant.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

On Twitter: @stevemistler